Life and a Death. These are matters of great importance, and the readings this week invite us to consider these precious things which are in our hands. We are also encouraged not to give up on the quest for holiness of life. Our faithfulness unfolds in our commitment to the Charter for just living - the law- and to the teaching of the Prophets. But notice how Jesus elevates certain aspects of these and allows others to fall away. He affirms and deepens the heart of the Law and Prophets and sweeps away what doesn't really matter.
The higher calling of His Disciples is the struggle for community in an age of holocaust. The struggle begins when we aim to strengthen our inner life. The religious leaders seem to be fixated on externals and their need to be 'seen' by others. Their egos are so huge, they can no longer see, or give priority to, those who are hurting. They tinker with trifles, obsess about details of the law and bury their passion for justice, love and compassion in the graveyard of their own self-importance.
Jesus calls his disciples to attend to their inner life. Life and Death, Love and Hate, Adultery and Faithfulness are huge polarities that we have to navigate every day. The rabbis often speak of 'evil imaginings'. If our angry hearts overflow into abusive talk we have sown the seed for murder. If we escape the need for reconciliation by just talking to God, Jesus sends us back to the person we have wronged to ask for forgiveness. If lust and deceit leads us to break people's hearts, we must enlarge our hearts by honouring the values which underpin love.
One of the oldest, and wisest, spiritual injunctions is 'Know Yourself!' We are pushed down the path of searing honesty and self-discovery. We set up a watching and listening post in the centre of our being
and begin the difficult task of seeing ourselves as we really are. We need to know how anger rises in us, comes to expression and then recedes. We need to watch lust and note how it can grip us and rush us along
paths we may not choose. We need to understand how we want shortcuts to forgiveness, how we hesitate and sometimes stall when it comes to
starting a conversation with someone that might bring us peace.
As St Matthew considers the size of the problem, he takes a no nonsense approach. Whatever causes us to sin must be removed! Of course, he is right because sin is pretty ugly. So, we just have to keep chiselling at our own statues.